Chapter Four

“How’s life, Emma?” Doctor Richards leaned back in his chair and tapped his pen on his clipboard. Emma swallowed hard and looked down at her sweatpants, trying to find a way around the question, to avoid the truth. Sadly, her psychiatrist seemed to see straight through her.

“Life is… fine,” she answered lamely, picking at the lint on her pants. She didn’t have to tell this psychiatrist anything if she didn’t want to; she would die very soon. If she had chosen to be truthful, Emma would have responded to Doctor Richards with: “Life is overrated.”

“Do you have any… problems? Worries? Doubts?” Doctor Richards coaxed subtly.

“Nope, not really,” Emma replied, still fiddling with her pants with her sweaty hands.

“Come now, Emma. You can tell me anything. Everything that is spoken is this room is kept completely confidential. Only you and I will know.”

There was something about the voice of Doctor Richards that made Emma’s skin tingle. She plucked up the courage to actually look in the grey orbs that were her psychiatrist’s eyes, but as soon as she did, a strange feeling that scared her overwhelmed her.

It was a curious mixture of pain and numbness at the same time. In half of the places in her body, she felt a lovely sense of numbness. In another quarter, there was a dull ache. In the other quarter, a sharp pain poked at her skin like a flame or the stinger of a bee.

Emma fidgeted as though she were hyperactive, when in reality she was hurting. A lot. Water pooled in her eyes, but she refused to cry in front of Doctor Richards, whom she’d only been in the presence of for a few minutes.

“Is everything alright, Emma?” the doctor asked concernedly.

“Yes, quite,” Emma gasped, sitting on her hands, which were now prickling madly.

“Oh, look is that the time already? Goodness, it sure has passed fast. But, of course, time is what stops everything from happening at once,” Doctor Richards commented happily, opening the door for a very confused Emma.

She looked up at the clock and then at her watch. According to both, their forty-five minute session had indeed passed. Yet, to Emma, it felt like only three minutes had gone by. What was wrong with the universe?

Emma, scrutinising Doctor Richards suspiciously (though avoiding his eyes), walked out the door backwards. When she was out of his sight, Emma left the building and rode Steve the bike back home.

In Doctor Richards’ office, her fatigue had seemed to disappear, though now it was back. Emma’s eyelids felt extremely heavy as she pushed open the door to her home at sunset. Her dad was playing Mozart and the sound of music echoed through the house, mixed with the clacking noises of spoon to bowl made from the chefs on TV, which was watched by her mum.

“How did the session go, honey?” her mum asked curiously, though not curious enough to divert her attention away from the television.

“Fine,” Emma lied easily, for all she had had to say was a single, meaningless word.

Exhausted from her short (or long; Emma didn’t know) encounter with Doctor Richards, the way time flew in his presence and her pretty normal fatigue, she dragged herself up the stairs and went into her room, where Josh was sitting, as she had expected. He was lying lazily across Emma’s bed, reading a book, and did not bother to look up as the true owner of the bed entered.

“Hello, Josh,” Emma said dryly. “You’re on my bed again, I see.”

Our bed,” Josh corrected.

Emma was too tired to continue what she was sure would turn out to be a childish banter. Instead, she threw one of her blankets across Josh’s mattress to give herself the illusion that she was sleeping in her own bed. Then, she slept.

And the sun hadn’t even set yet.

The next morning, Emma was rudely awoken by the sound of pens against metal. She knew immediately that the only creator of the sound at this time could have been Josh. He was extremely lucky that Emma’s parents’ room was downstairs and sound did not travel down there. Otherwise, he would have been in big trouble with Emma’s parents.

“Josh!” Emma grumbled into her pillow, irritated.

“What?” came Josh’s innocent voice. “If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t get to school on time.”

“If it weren’t for you, you wouldn’t come and annoy me all the time – even when I’m trying to sleep.”

Yawning loudly, Emma sat up in Josh’s bed and stretched. She carefully wiped the crust away from her eyes, so as to not hurt her eyes, and she saw that Josh was tapping Emma’s money box happily with one of her multi-coloured pens.

“Stop that,” Emma commanded, getting out of the bed. “It’s so irritating.”

“Your face is irritating,” Josh retorted, making Emma frown.

“Your face is so fat that the fat rolls make blinds for your eyes,” Emma said.

“Your momma’s so fat that when she wears a yellow raincoat, people go, ‘Taxi! Taxi!’” Josh countered, grinning.

Emma chuckled, but her amused face quickly turned ugly when Josh began his blasted vocal exercises. She threw a pillow at him – hard – and trudged sleepily down the stairs. Her long sleep definitely hadn’t improved her fatigue. In fact, she felt worse than how she’d felt yesterday. It was as if she’d taken two drowsiness pills yesterday and today she’d taken three.

She really needed to find some magic. But where in the world would she find some? It obviously wouldn’t be as easy as going to a local magic store and buying a bowl of magic. And speaking of eating magic, how was she even meant to consume it?

All she knew was that her two objectives, at the moment, were to find some edible magic and to get into Josh’s gang. Ah, yes. Emma in Josh’s gang? It was difficult for her to visualise that in her head, but she had figured out from her own resurrection that anything was possible. Death’s mission was Mission Improbable.

It began to rain when Emma was halfway through her breakfast. The rain slashed the windows and pounded the road outside like a giant drum. Children who were playing outside shrieked and laughed before returning to their houses. Thunder boomed and a flash of white lightning appeared the sky, brightening it, before disappearing and letting the sky return to its grey, cloudy state.

The wind howled like a ghost. Emma could tell that a nasty storm was brewing.

“Mum?” Emma said loudly over the wind and rain. “Should I catch the bus to school?”

“You will do no such thing!” her mum chastised from the kitchen and Emma sighed, disappointed. She would have to ride to school in this horrible weather. It was unfortunate that Emma didn’t have three arms. Otherwise, she would have been able to hold up and umbrella while riding – although the umbrella probably would get blown away by the winds that were growing fiercer by the minute.

Emma’s spirits lifted joyously when her mum clarified what she had meant.

“I don’t want you travelling to school in this weather. You’ll stay home. And you will too, young man!” her mum added, looking at the stairs, where Josh was obviously standing.

“Huh?” Josh asked, confused. He sat down at the dining table and accepted his breakfast with a smile that meant, “Thanks.”

“Mum wants us to stay home,” Emma explained excitedly. “We don’t have to go to school.”

Emma was slightly disappointed about the fact that she was forbidden from going to school. It meant that she couldn’t start attempting to enter Josh’s gang until the next day. Although, now she thought about it, Josh’s friends probably wouldn’t come to school, either. So all she could try to do today to pass the time was look for magic. She wasn’t counting on progressing with her search much.

She raised her glass of milk to her lips and then completely freaked out. Something solid and slimy had touched her mouth. Her heart beating fast, Emma flung her arms around in the air agitatedly and the glass slipped out of her hand. It was sent crashing into the wall, where it shattered noisily and fell to the floor.

“EMMA MAY SLIM!” Emma’s dad roared and Emma knew she would have rather been dead at that moment.

“I – it wasn’t my fault! Josh put something in drink!” Emma accused angrily. Josh used his brilliant acting skills and morphed his face into one of shock and surprise.

“Me? Why would I put something in your drink?” Josh said, putting a hand to his heart.

“Emma! What did I say about wrongly accusing Josh of silly things just so he’ll get into trouble? No, Emma Slim, you made this mess,” her father growled, pointing at the wall where milk was sliding down into a pool around the shards of broken glass, “and you will clean it up yourself.”

“You’re grounded until the weekend. Clean up this mess and then go to your – and Josh’s – room!” her mother shrieked.

Fuming, Emma grabbed the correct cleaning tools and walked over to the mess on the ground. Surrounded by milk were the sharp pieces of glass. Nearby, a hard-boiled egg was sitting on the ground. Josh had played the easy but effective egg-in-milk prank. Emma couldn’t believe that she hadn’t seen him put the egg in her glass. He had been sitting a meter away, for crying out loud!

Her blood boiling, Emma squatted and began to sweep up all the glass. After that, she wiped up the milk and threw the egg in the rubbish bin. As she passed Josh on her way to the stairs, he smirked smugly and Emma gritted her teeth in anger. The git.

She trudged slowly up the stairs. When she re-entered her room, she locked the door so that Josh couldn’t come in and annoy her anymore.

Her first life had been much better than what her second life was like.

Still raging about how unfair her parents were, seeing as Josh clearly had been the reason that Emma had thrown her glass dangerously in the first place, Emma slumped into her office chair and went on the internet to calm herself down.

She wasn’t one for social networks. Instead, she did productive things, like now; she had actually searched “consumable magic”. Unfortunately, all the search results were of video game advice. Emma wasn’t playing a video game, though. Her game was called life.

Emma wasn’t very good at searching for things and gave up after her first failed attempt at finding consumable magic through the Internet.

Just because she had nothing to do, she checked on Opal’s Facebook page, named Pineville Views High Gossip. Her number of followers almost equalled the number of students at their school. Only mildly interested, Emma scrolled down the page, skimming past the posts and pictures about the numerous break-ups and new relationships in the school. There were posts about several petitions, pictures of school teams and a collage of the people in the popular group.

One picture caught Emma’s eye. It was a picture of Josh talking to Jack Adams, captioned, “New student, Joshua Mills. Hottie!” Just above was a picture of Josh, Emma and Jack all together in the same parking lot, captioned, “Emma Slim and Joshua Mills are roommates!” The comments on that picture were not particularly polite.

A bit below was a picture that had attracted many. It was a picture of another new student. The caption read, “New student, Carmen Alaceleste. Is she pretty or what?”

Emma clicked on the photo to enlarge it. This Carmen girl was more than pretty; she was beautiful, in an intense kind of way. She was perched on a high stone wall, a book held in her hands. It seemed that Opal had been caught taking her photo, however, because Carmen was staring straight into the lens, giving a full view of her face.

There was something slightly smug about her, as though she knew something Emma didn’t.

Carmen looked strangely graceful but her light ice blue eyes held a hint of defiance in them. Her skin was very pale, though not unattractively so. Her hair was black like ravens and her lips red like blood. Emma was reminded of Snow White.

Carmen’s expression was neutral but she still looked beautiful, with defined cheekbones, large and outlined eyes, a feminine jawbone and perfectly shaped lips. Her hair cascaded down her back in natural curls.

A small pang of jealousy hit Emma. Why was it that some people were so immensely beautiful – like Carmen – and some were boringly plain – like Emma? Emma supposed that if everyone in the world was beautiful, then beauty would become plain.

Carmen was prettier than the most popular girl in the school, Madison Miles, girlfriend to Jack Adams. Emma felt a bit of sympathy for Carmen, for soon she would be on the receiving end of many girls’ jealous glares and devious plans to make her look stupid or ugly.

Sighing with boredom and her annoying tiredness, Emma closed down her computer and stared out the window before immersing herself in a book.

She didn’t notice the shadowy figure staring at her from the top of the house across the road.

.oOo.

When Emma felt someone shaking her from sleep a bit later, she had only two things on her mind. First, she was going to kill whoever was waking her up. Second, after the perfectly executed murder, she needed a cup of coffee.

She made a protestant noise and looked up at the clock. It was three o’clock. Goodness, she’d slept for nine hours!

As it turned out, she didn’t manage to kill Josh. She didn’t get her coffee, either, and that was the thing she became most upset about.

For the rest of the day, Emma dragged herself around the house like a zombie, inspecting the little figurines and photos upon the several shelves scattered around the house with boredom. Her list of things to do was blank, and so Emma had decided to take to memorising every little thing in her house.

She had merely two weeks…

After examining the little knick-knacks and photo frames, Emma began to smell everything. She smelled the walls, the pantry, the floor, the couch, the table, the fruit bowl, the figurines, the photos, the magazines, the piano and all other things that were visible and able to be smelled.

Josh was sitting at the coffee table in the carpet, shuffling a deck of cards. He had an eyebrow raised as his eyes followed Emma around.

“Having fun?” Josh snickered. Emma was now happily sniffing the fish bowl. When she pulled away, her face was scrunched up in disgust.

“Yuck,” Emma spat.

“Wanna play?” Josh suggested hopefully. He almost looked as bored as Emma was.

Glad for an opportunity to do something to amuse herself, Emma sat down and took her cards. The storm still had not let up and Emma jumped slightly each time thunder cracked. They played Monopoly silently, with the exception of a quiet exclamation of glory or an unhappy groan.

Josh won. They played again.

After five more games, with Emma only winning one, they packed up the game and played Go Fish with a normal deck of cards.

Emma’s mum and dad left the house, muttering something about going out for dinner and being back by midnight. Josh abandoned his cards and pulled out his phone from his pocket. Beeping came from the phone as he dialled… whoever he was dialling.

“Callum, mate! Come over. I’m so bored, it’s not even funny.” He paused. “That’s not a cue for you to start laughing.” Another pause. “Just come over already.”

Josh hung up and dialled a new number, Emma staring at him curiously.

“Hey, Rein. Come over. Now.” Josh listened to his friend for a while, nodding, before talking. “Right, well, the fact that your washing isn’t done is completely irrelevant. Bye.”

There was a beep signifying that the call was ended, and a series of beeps as Josh dialled yet another number.

“Lester, please come to my house. You’ve got no idea of the boredom I’m currently drowning in… Awesome, dude. See you soon.”

Beep. Beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep.

“James, my man! What’s that noise in the background? Oh, your sister’s being annoying again. Well, you’re in luck, because I was just about to demand that you come over. Yep. Yep. Nope. Yep. Nope. Uh, maybe. Of course. Yep. Callum, Rein and Lester are coming. Okay, bye.”

“Are they the guys who make up your gang?” Emma wondered out loud.

“Yeah,” Josh answered.

“Could I borrow that phone?”

“No.”

“Please?”

“No.”

“Fine,” Emma scoffed, grabbing the home phone next to her. She quickly dialled Opal’s number.

“Hi, Opal!” Emma greeted brightly.

Hi, Emma. What’s up?

“Would you like to come over?”

I, uh…

Emma could immediately tell that Opal was going to refuse Emma’s offer for whatever reason, so she tried to think of something that Opal liked.

Social networking… Hair… Boys!

“Josh is here. And so are his four friends. I mean, they’re not here now but they’ll be arriving soon.”

I’m so sorry, Emma! But I can’t come, because I’m at Julia’s house,” Opal told Emma regretfully. Emma knew that her friend really would have preferred to come to her house.

“Julia? Who in the world’s that?”

She’s a girl in my Science class. She’s really nice. You would like her.

“Where does she live?”

Albino Drive,” Opal answered.

“That’s not so far away. The two of you could come over together,” Emma suggested hopefully.

I wish we could, but we have to babysit Lily, Julia’s little sister. Well, Julia has to, but I’m helping. It would be mean I left by myself and I don’t really think we could bring Lily…

“How old is she?” Emma asked.

Julia?

“No, Lily,” Emma intoned.

Oh. She’s thirteen years old,” Opal lilted.

“She’s only three years younger than all of us! Please come over,” Emma begged.

You really are desperate, aren’t you?

“Yes, I am!” Emma groaned into the phone.

Let me check with Julia about what she thinks.” Then there was faint muttering in the background for a while. “Julia reckons it’s fine, so long as Lily can go to sleep at ten, which is her bedtime.

Emma laughed, partly with joy, partly with amusement. “Of course she can. It’s not really up to me when Lily sleeps, is it?”

I suppose not,” Opal chuckled. “Okay, we’ll see you soon.

“See you,” Emma said happily and hung up.

“Wow,” Josh muttered. “You take way longer to persuade to your friends to come over.

Emma ignored him.

The real reason she was desperate for Opal to come was not because of her boredom. No, there would be plenty of amusement with Josh’s buddies around. The real reason was because Emma was very awkward with people she didn’t know unless she had someone she did know next to her. This was the chance she’d been waiting for. It was Josh and his gang all alone, so that Emma could somehow try to befriend each guy. She hadn’t, however, thought about her social awkwardness and it was only now that she realised that her first time meeting the gang would have to be shared with a friend. Otherwise, she would be a stuttering pile of nerves.

She and Josh played another round of Go Fish to pass the time. The sky was steadily darkening. The rain was still pouring down from the heavens relentlessly.

Emma heard a car pull up in the driveway and her heart skipped a beat. She certainly hoped that Opal, Lily and Julia were the occupants of the car. She hadn’t counted on any of Josh’s friends arriving before her own friends.

Luck betrayed her as two good-looking guys stepped out of the car. Emma spied on them through the window. Josh opened the door to usher them in quickly, as rain was quickly wetting the floor around the doorway. The guys jogged inside, shielding their eyes from the rain.

The first was tall, pale and blond. His eyes were pools of silver, his white-blond fringe falling slightly into them. His skin was white, exactly like the colour of Carmen Alaceleste’s skin. His mouth, set above a strong jawline, seemed to be curled into a slight smirk. There was a kind of casual elegance in the way he stood.

The second was tan, showing that he spent a lot of time outdoors. His dirty blonde hair together with his bronzed skin made him look like a classic Australian surfer dude. His hands were stuffed in the pockets of his rather expensive-looking jeans. He had the same casualness as the first guy, but not the elegance.

Emma was mortified at the sight of the expensive clothes that Josh’s friends wore, for she wore a simple baggy tank top and floral-patterned shorts, both of which she’d found at a garage sale.

“Josh, is this your new roommate?” the surfer dude asked, gesturing towards Emma.

“Sure is,” Josh replied dryly. “Emma, meet Callum and Rein.” Callum was the surfer and Rein was the pale one. “Boys, meet Emma. You may call her Slime, Lieutenant Slime or Egg-Head. Emma’s a bit of a far stretch.”

“Why Egg-Head?” Emma demanded hotly.

“Because of this morning’s incident,” Josh sniggered.

Callum shook Emma’s hand. “Nice to meet you… Emma.” Emma could tell that Callum that was caught between his common courtesy, which told him not to be rude to a complete stranger, and Josh, who was telling him to call her names.

“N-nice to meet you too, Callum,” Emma stuttered.

Rein then took her hand and kissed it. Emma blushed profusely.

“Pleasure, Emma.”

Emma laughed nervously and fiddled with the bottom of her shorts when Rein released her hand. “Pleasure, Rein.”

Josh rolled his eyes as obviously as he could.

“Rein was born in this English manor with parents who were obsessed with etiquette or something like that…” Josh explained Rein’s behaviour.

“Why does he have an Australian accent?”

“He’s lived here for ten years.”

“Oh,” Emma said, and then kept quiet, for she had no idea what to say next.

“Oh, look, I think Lester’s here,” Josh guessed when he heard the sound of a sports car pulling up into the driveway next to Callum or Rein’s car.

He pulled open the door and another guy ran in, quickly fixing his hair, which had hardly been touched by the rain because of the speed at which the owner of the hair had run.

“Hey guys,” he greeted, done with his hair. “Oh, I know you! You’re that Slime girl!”

Emma frowned.

“Yes, I’m the Slime girl. I prefer Emma, though.”

Emma should have stuttered, but she wasn’t nervous around people who were rude to her. That was why she hadn’t been nervous the first time Josh had talked to her in Care Class.

“I’m the Lester guy. I prefer Lester.”

Emma had to squint through the darkness to see him now. Night had fallen and no one had thought to turn on the lights.

Lester kind of looked like Jack Adams, with a muscular body, caramel brown hair and a perfect shade of slightly bronzed skin. It was a touch lighter than Callum’s tanned skin. He looked like the typical popular guy. According to Opal, guys with this type of appearance were featured so often on Opal’s Pineville Views High Gossip page that people grew bored of them and she had to look even harder for things to photograph and post about.

The final guy arrived. He had to be James. Emma wished Opal, Julia and Lily would all hurry up. Sure, Josh was someone she knew and could have been the person to help her get over her awkwardness, but it didn’t work that way. Josh didn’t count because he was a friend of all the people that Emma was being nervous around.

Josh opened the door for James. He had ridden on his motorcycle and was clad head-to-toe in black leather. His black hair perfectly matched his outfit, but his pale skin stood out. He was neither handsome, nor ugly. He would have been plain, if it weren’t for his outfit.

The recognisable music of Lana Del Rey’s song “Carmen” floated down the stairs and Emma rushed up the staircase, happy to have a reason to postpone her fourth meeting. She reached her room and flicked open her phone, stopping the song.

“Hello?”

Emma, it’s Opal! I’m so sorry, but I can’t go.

“Why not?” Emma asked despairingly.

Julia checked with her parents at the last minute and they said that Lily has to stay inside the house! Of course, Julia has to stay with Lily, and I have to stay with Julia.

“Why do you have to stay with Julia?” Emma pouted.

It’ll be rude to just get up and leave her when I promised to stay with her.

“Boys! Five boys! Please?”

Sorry, Em,” Opal apologised.

Emma sighed. This was just her normal bad luck. “Bye, then.”

Bye. And sorry again!

Emma hung up and climbed down the stairs. She didn’t reveal herself, though, because it seemed that there was one more visitor. Emma peeked out from the corner of the wall and eyed the intruder.

It was Carmen.

How ironic, Emma mused. My ringtone and Carmen share the same name.

Carmen looked even more beautiful than she’d looked in the photo. Her blue eyes were alive with fury. Her pale skin was exposed and gave off an ethereal glow in the moonlight. She wore a white dress, but it looked destroyed. Carmen had obviously walked through the rain, as her clothes, skin and hair was drenched. Despite this, she still looked perfect.

She was yelling at the boys for some reason.

“How dare you! How dare you! I hope you die in the fiery realms of Hell,” Carmen shrieked and then spat at Rein’s feet.

Rein looked as serene as if he were sleeping with his eyes open.

“I, equally, hope you face an untimely death,” Rein countered calmly.

“Yeah!” Lester spoke up, backing up his friend. “You’re always talking about embracing Death!”

Emma’s concentrated as hard as she could on the conversation after hearing Lester’s last statement. Unfortunately, it seemed the conversation was over, for Carmen slammed the door. Before she did, though, she looked straight in Emma’s direction and her hard, ice blue eyes pierced Emma’s amber ones.

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